Wallyño wins Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023 class with a day to spare

While in some classes the victors are now close to being decided going into tomorrow’s last race for the 39 maxi yachts at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023, more light conditions off the Cote d’Azur produced some new winners today.

In the southerly breeze, the race once again set sail from Pampelonne Bay, but with the race committee, including the International Maxi Association’s own Ariane Mainemare, sending the bigger maxi classes north towards Fréjus while the leeward mark for Maxi C and D was further west off Issambres, both groups ultimately finishing in the Golfe de Saint-Tropez.

However decisive is the situation in Maxi C where winning with a day to spare is International Maxi Association President Benoît de Froidmont and his 60ft Wallyño who have sewn-up their result, the only Maxi still racing with an unblemished four bullet scoreline.

Having started three up from the pin, Wallyño headed for the mid-left up the beat to stay in optimum pressure and shift. “Lady First 3 had a tighter layline with two more tacks than us and we managed to roll them at the top,” recounted tactician Cedric Pouligny. “After that we had to deal with the bigger boats we were catching. We made a mistake on the final downwind coming into Issambres because we let Lady First 3 go more inshore and we got an extra header that was not expected. They got inside us and caught us but we were still ahead at the mark.

Ultimately Wallyño beat Lady First 3 under IRC corrected time by 6 minutes 46 seconds with Marco Tursini’s Advanced 80 Mindfulness third.

Most hotly contested remains Maxi A where today separate battles were raging between the 100 footers and between the former Maxi 72s. Going into tomorrow’s final day three boats are separated by 0.7 points.

Particularly fierce was the contest between the 72ft Cannonball, helmed by her new owner Peter Harrison, and Peter Dubens’ North Star. After a start from Pampelonne Bay (following a short delay) in a 6 knot southerly, North Star led for most of the race, but approaching the leeward mark off Fréjus Cannonball was able to engage, forcing North Star to tack just short of the mark, although Peter Dubens’ team still managing to gain the inside berth at the mark, rounding with Cannonball just inches outside her.

Cannonball’s tactician Vasco Vascotto admitted that he’d made a few mistakes early on the downwind to Fréjus due to “too much rosé [on yesterday’s layday]!” But then: “We had the opportunity to recover and to fight a little bit and then it became a little closer. It wasn’t a proper match – if it had been that, I promise you there would have been a lot of carbon around the bay! But the relationship between the other 72 footers is really good – so no problem.

Ultimately North Star prevailed, finishing just over a minute ahead of Cannonball, but with the former Maxi 72s only just making the podium today.

Finally scoring a bullet today was Wendy Schmidt’s 82ft Deep Blue, bouncing back after a start line collision with a rib on Wednesday had caused enough damage to put them out of that race (for which they received redress). Today they bounced back stronger than ever to take the Maxi A class bullet, elevating them to third overall behind Cannonball and North Star.

Winning on the water today was Chris Flowers’ 100ft Galateia, which finished second 1 minutes 10 seconds behind Deep Blue under IRC corrected time, despite having been locked in combat with Karel Komarek’s similarly-sized V (ex-Tango) for much of the race. “We were glued together – super close,” observed Galateia tactician Murray Jones.  

Of their race the America’s Cup legend continued: “All the boats were quite early on the start, but we sailed well off the line, which saved us. When we came across y3k had done a nice job, tacking early to get across to the right. We did a strong leebow [tack] on her and then fortunately the wind lifted us about 8° and we laid from where we were, which was a little lucky.”

Many gains were to be made from playing the topography-induced shifts, although at one point V found more pressure offshore and when they reconvened with the fleet she had done well. Galateia led around the leeward mark and at the finish off Saint-Tropez (in the best breeze of the day – around 10 knots) was first home, two minutes 20 seconds ahead on the water.

In Maxi B the unbroken string of wins for Terry Hui’s 77ft Lyra came to an end with the Chinese-Canadian’s team third behind her seven-year-younger sistership, Sven Wackerhagen’s Rose and Thomas Biton’s 72ft Aragon.

We didn’t make mistakes today,” explained Rose’s Danish tactician Jesper Radich. “We started well and had a significant lead at the first mark and were the first to gybe on the first corner where there was a massive 23° shift. So we came out on a lift and then we started to get rolled downwind [by the faster boats] and it is always hard to evaluate what is the winning pattern when you are losing! But we stayed cool – then on the last upwind we got the breeze we needed and then could stretch our legs a bit and get back at Aragon and win the race.

Generally of their week Radich said: “We have consistently started strong. This team has a long way to go, so when it becomes really difficult we pay quite a price because we are not an experienced team and we don’t have the same super-optimised set-up as Lyra does, so we have to sail close to our optimum to beat them. But today we managed that pretty well.

Finally in Maxi D Jurg Schneider’s Swan 65 Saida scored her second bullet of the series. However Matteo Fossati’s 64ft Stella Maris still leads overall. Jerome Bataillard’s Shipman 63 Sao Bernardo was third today behind Stella Maris.

It was perfect conditions for Saida,” said Schneider. “We had a good start and on the gennaker hoist we did a good job.” Being substantially the lowest rated in Maxi D it is easy to know when his 50-year-old ketch is doing well – he simply needs competitors to be astern and two were today. This does mean that tomorrow it will be hard for them to engage and make much impression on the faster Stella Maris. “Our goal is to have a third win tomorrow,” concluded Schneider.  

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez is organised by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, part of the French Sailing Federation, in collaboration with the city of Saint-Tropez, the International Maxi Association (IMA) and the support of the Yacht Club de France. It is the final event of the IMA’s Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge.

4 October 2023

Big breeze for Lyra and Wallyño at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023

While Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023 is renowned for its lazy autumnal breezes, today the crews of the 39 maxi yachts competing in the Bay of Pampelonne braced themselves for a well-forecast pummelling with winds that built into the mid-20s allowing the faster boats to hit 20+ speeds.

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez is organised by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, part of the French Sailing Federation, in collaboration with the city of Saint-Tropez, the International Maxi Association (IMA) and the support of the Yacht Club de France. It is the final event of the IMA’s 2023 Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge.

Predictions were that the big breeze, coming after two lighter days, might upset the results. However in two of the four classes this proved not to be the case with Terry Hui’s 77ft Lyra scoring her third bullet of the regatta in Maxi B, as did IMA President Benoît de Froidmont’s Wallyño in Maxi C.

For de Froidmont this came as a slight surprise as his slippery silver 60 footer is known for her light weather performance, while her wily crew have to rely more on their extensive offshore experience when the breeze is up. As he explained: “It was not the conditions for the boat, because it was quite windy and we had some technical problems before the start – we broke the electronics, so we were having to sail old style – just based on ‘feel’ – but it was quite fun.

Compared to the rest of the fleet we were very happy with the boat’s performance. The target was to sail safe. Breeze with no waves is quite rare here.

Today, under IRC corrected time, Wallyño finished 1 minutes 13 seconds ahead of Karl Pisec’s Solaris 72 Black Pearl in turn 1 minute 31 seconds ahead of Maurits van Oranje’s Mylius 60 Sud (sistership Jean-Pierre Dreau’s Lady First 3 suffered mainsail damage pre-start today – but she and Sud are tied on points behind Wallyño overall).

Another supposed light air specialist, Terry Hui’s 77ft Lyra, won Maxi B by a larger margin of nine minutes 10 seconds. Of more surprise was the Spirit Yachts 111 Geist coming second. While the 24-year-old Lyra is the more modern design, Geist is a modern classic, built in wood-epoxy and displacing 70 tonnes, but is younger – just two years old – and with modern day equipment such as a carbon fibre mast and a fin/bulb, rather than a long keel.

Her crew are modern day old salts including America’s Cup sailors Paul Campbell-James and Pete Cumming as tactician and mainsheet trimmer respectively. Today’s second place was Geist’s best result to date, said Cumming. “Crew-work on a day like today was pretty important, so coming straight from the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup we had good teamwork and sail handling, combined with more breeze. Then we just had to heel her over…

Tactics also came into play: “We always knew that because we are one of the slowest boats in our class, we didn’t want to get into a position to get rolled. We knew there would be big right hand shifts in the bay, but we wanted to be the first to tack. So we did a classic ‘Ed Baird start’ – in at the committee boat, let the traffic go, then tacked off and sailed in clear breeze for the first time this regatta. We found the right shift we wanted and were third boat around the windward mark, which we held on to the whole way around the course.

He added: “We were surprised how well we went today with Lyra up the first beat [upwind Geist’s longer waterline length paid off]. In the sea state we just chop through it all. Lyra slipped away from us downwind, it shows what the boat can do.

In Maxi A, the trio of former Maxi 72s proved that they could excel in the bigger conditions too, taking all three of the top spots with Peter Harrison’s 72ft Cannonball prevailing over yesterday’s winner, Peter Dubens’ North Star and Sir Peter Ogden’s 77ft Jethou.

Cannonball strategist Michele Ivaldi said of their day: “It was a great job by all of the team – good sail choice and tactics, the boat was going really well, upwind and down. Peter [Harrison] drove 95% of the time and did really well. He said it was the most fun he’d had in a long time – which is the whole point of the exercise…

For Cannonball, today’s victory was largely set up out of the start (unlike yesterday when they unsuccessfully attempted to start on port). “The first beat was tricky because we knew the wind was 220-230° past the point, but 240-245° in the bay before the start. We wanted to start on the upper part of the line and go straight for a while and tack across and we found a good lane back and from then on it was good.” Jethou gained an advantage threading her way through some rocks, but Cannonball recovered and the two had a phenomenal, high speed match race on the run back. “That was super fun downwind with good breeze and good waves, for the last 10-15 minutes of the race with the jibtop doing 22-23 knots. It was one of the best races I have sailed here,” concluded Ivaldi.

While the Chris Flowers-steered Galateia was first on the water and under corrected time among the 100 footers, it was Pier Luigi Loro Piana’s ClubSwan 80 My Song that finished fourth under IRC. “They were the best conditions – we had a lot of fun after two days of light wind,” said Loro Piana. “We are happy, but if you beat your competitors you are even happier. Downwind we did a very good job. Upwind there is room for us to do better.

He added that downwind today My Song’s boat speed was matching wind speed – 20 knots in 20 knots of wind, etc. “We were planing and it was great to be given a ‘little bit of oxygen’.

The biggest smile was on the face of Italian Matteo Fossati, owner of Stella Maris. While his 64 footer rarely makes an impression on the results table, despite enthusiastic campaigning in recent years in events such as the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and IMA Maxi European Championship, Stella Maris is currently leading Maxi D.

It was very nice today’s race – 20 knots of wind and really beautiful landscape,” said Fossati, whose yacht winters in Ravenna while her crew comes from all across Italy. “Our boat is old and needs wind conditions like today.

Fossati is enjoying his first ever Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. “It is very nice because there are a lot of boats similar to us. In Sorrento or Porto Cervo our class joins classes of faster boats.

Tomorrow is layday for the Maxi class at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, although the ‘Modern’ and ‘Classic’ fleets will continue racing. However the Maxis have the opportunity to take part in match races and for the Club 55 Maxi Cup 100ft Magic Carpet 3 will line up against My Song.

October 2, 2023

North Star to the fore as Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023 maxi fleet goes coastal

Les voiles de st tropez 2023
Photo: Gianfranco Forza

With the smaller modern fleet racing in the Golfe de Saint-Tropez the 39-strong maxi fleet moved to the bay off the Cote d’Azur’s famous Pampelonne beach for the start and finish of the coastal race for day two of the Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023, the deciding event of the International Maxi Association’s Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge.

The course took the maxis south to a mark two bays down off Cap Lardier then returning via a mark in the bay off L’Escalet. The smaller boats then headed directly back to the finish while Maxi A had to round one last mark out to sea to the east, the famous Nioulargue mark (after the original incarnation of this event), before finishing. The southerly breeze built from around 7 knots at the start to 12-14 knots as the sea breeze filled in shifting the wind right.

While there was no wind initially, racing finally got away almost two hours late, just before 1400 local time for the four classes (following a jury decision, Maxi A1 and A2 are now combined into Maxi A spanning 100 footers to the former Maxi 72s)

With stronger and more stable breeze there were no runaway leaders today and in fact Peter Harrison’s 72ft Cannonball, which was first home on the water by a huge margin yesterday (ahead of even the 100 footers), today finished a lowly sixth under IRC corrected time. Instead it was the turn of Peter Dubens’ 72ft North Star, the reigning IMA Maxi European Champion, to come out on top in Maxi A.

I am really pleased with the result,” said North Star’s tactician, 470 double Olympic silver medallist Nick Rogers. “We had a really good start at the starboard end and tacked off early. On that first leg the right was favoured so it meant we spent a long time on port tack without getting rolled by the bigger boats. That was the key moment. Later we got tacked on a couple of times but that kept us in clear traffic for 90% of the race.”

Owner Peter Dubens was over the moon about the result which came after a tough day yesterday for the British team when the wind had shut down for them just short of the finish line off Saint-Tropez.

While Sir Peter Ogden’s 77ft Jethou finished third today, a worthy second was Andrea Recordati’s 93ft Bullitt, finishing 2 minutes 26 seconds behind North Star under IRC corrected time. “We had a very good day today,” reported Bullitt’s Brazilian tactician Joca Signorini. “We had a good start to leeward of the 100s and managed to find a good lane going to the right above them. It was very close racing once the breeze dropped half way through the beat. The guys did a wonderful job keeping the boat going fast and after rounding the first mark there were not many passing opportunities.” After two races, Bullitt leads Maxi A overall.

The 100s followed with V fourth and Galateia, skippered by co-owner Chris Flowers, fifth.
In Maxi B, it was the familiar form of regular Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez winner Terry Hui’s 77ft Lyra that for a second day came out on top. Second to her were the chartered Maarten 72 Aragon and the 80ft Rose of Sven Wackerhagen. Also holding a perfect scoreline is International Maxi Association President Benoît de Froidmont’s Wally 60 Wallyño in Maxi C, while holding the remaining positions on the podium after day two are the Mylius 60s Maurits van Oranje’s Sud and Jean-Pierre Dreau’s Lady First 3.

While Lady First 3 and her crew including French offshore A-listers like Christopher Pratt and Xavier Macaire, beat her Dutch opponent yesterday, they prevailed today leaving the two tied on points. “We had a problem with our spinnaker,” explained Dreau of today’s third place. “We don’t know why but it broke and it took us maybe five minutes to change, so we lost a few boats.” However his white-hulled Mylius 60 is enjoying the race with her black-hulled sistership Sud, which are showing a marked improvement in their performance this week.

The closest results today were in Maxi D where Jürg Schneider’s Swan 65 ketch Saida, last year’s winner here, once again found her form scoring her first bullet of the regatta. However a second for Matteo Fossati’s Stella Maris today leaves the Italian 64 footer leading Maxi D after two races.

It was a great day,” said Schneider. “We had a good start but after the start we had a problem with one of the winches. But then we found our way out of that and on the first downwind we were first to hoist our gennaker quite early which put us in a good position.” Saida finished their race in no more than 14 knots of breeze so their victory was not a case of being one of the lowest rated and enjoying better breeze towards the finish. The Maxi D finishes were also the closest across the fleet today with Saida finishing just 26 seconds ahead of Stella Maris under IRC corrected time.

All eyes are on day three’s competition. While Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez is typically a light regatta, tomorrow the forecast for the Bay of Pampelonne is for a southwest wind of 15-20 knots with the wind into the mid to high 20s the further offshore the maxi yachts are sent. This could easily throw up a different set of results after two days favouring the light wind specialists.

October 1, 2023

Cannonball blasts ahead at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023

les voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023
Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget.

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023 set sail today with the race committee led by PRO Georges Korhel and assisted by the International Maxi Association’s Ariane Mainemare, defying predictions in managing to get a race in for the 39-strong maxi fleet, despite light winds. Through the afternoon the breeze barely touched six knots and was more usually closer to four.

Starting and finished immediately off Saint-Tropez, much to the delight of spectators crowded around the Tour du Portalet, the maxis sailed what was supposed to be a windward-leeward with the leeward mark in the mouth of the Golfe de Saint-Tropez and the weather mark to the east. Two laps of this, culminating into a run back to the finish off Saint-Tropez would represent a 25 mile course. In the event only the Maxi A1 and A2 classes sailed the full distance with the course for the smaller classes shortened after one lap.

In three out of the five classes, the winners were familiar. The last time the maxis raced on the Golfe was at Rolex Giraglia in June where IMA President Benoît de Froidmont’s Wally 60 Wallyño and Dario Ferrari’s former Maxi 72 Cannonball scored straight bullets in three races. Both continued their winning ways today in their respective classes.

Despite Peter Harrison acquiring Cannonball, her original crew, led by Michele Ivaldi and tactician Vasco Vascotto, remains the same. Today her winning margin was nothing short of a miracle: 32 minutes 29 seconds ahead of Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou under IRC corrected in Maxi A2, while in the combined Maxi A class she was 24 minutes 15 seconds ahead of Maxi A1 winner, Wendy Schmidt’s 85ft Deep Blue.

It was a fantastic day – good conditions for the Cannonball,” said Cameron Dunn, who operates the runners on board. “It was a tricky first beat getting out of the bay in 4.5 knots, but we managed to get a race in. We didn’t get the start we wanted, but it was good enough and we managed to get lucky in the corner with a little puff. Vasco and Michele did a fantastic job. The sail choices were important – a couple of boats behind made wrong choices but we made a good calls. Peter did a good job driving – he is getting used to the boat now.

Deep Blue was on top form today, under IRC corrected time finishing 6 minutes 13 seconds ahead of Andrea Recordati’s 93ft Bullitt, in turn 23 seconds in front of the 100ft V, first of the 100 footers.  

“We’ve done quite a bit of work – we have a new shorter keel as well as adding a water ballast system,” explained Deep Blue’s Project Manager, Terry Halpin. “That has transformed the boat so we are feeling very positive that is it is a much more competitive. Today was our first long light test and we are pleased.

In the light conditions the maxis had crew sitting to leeward but on Deep Blue many were to leeward down below. “We had a nice clean lane at the start, and laid the right side until we got out and got to the lift. Then it was straight line after the point,” Halpin explained where tactician Rob MacMillan had pointed them. “We do feel now that relative to other boats we are able to hang on.” Aside from the start, Deep Blue managed to thread her way through at the finish when the fleet ahead had concertinaed together approaching the finish.

This is only her new owner’s third ever regatta so to finish third in Maxi A1 was a welcome result explained tactician Ken Read. “We are really happy in the little changes we have made in how we sail the boat and tweaks to the boat from last regatta to this, but it is still a brand new situation for everyone and we are learning.” He added that they had managed to get a good start which had made the rest of his day easier.  

In all the classes, the first out of the Golfe de Saint-Tropez mostly still found themselves top of the pile by the finish. “It is a pretty one sided race track so it is nice escaping first. You have to be in that top pack otherwise you are fighting for your life for the whole time,” continued Read.

As to why Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez remains such a popular event on the maxi circuit, the North Sails President added: “The scene here on the dock is unprecedented. It is like nothing else we have in our sport. It is hard not to have a smile on your face…” The quayside in Saint-Tropez is perpetually teeming with spectator there to see the wide array of maxi yachts and ancient classics. “Some of prettiest boats on the planet are here. It nice to see such a variety of boats on the same space.

In Maxi D, Matteo Fossati’s 64ft Stella Maris was first under IRC corrected time but in the class above it was the familiar form of Benoît de Froidmont’s Wallyño which won Maxi C ahead of the Mylius 60s Jean-Pierre Dreau’s Lady First 3 and Maurits van Oranje’s Sud.

Wallyño’s ace French tactician Cedric Pouligny explained: “We had a pretty good start and managed to go to the right side of the beat – but not completely right, inside Les Canebiers bay it was pretty weak. Some went too far but we just managed to tack at the right moment.” As in the other classes, the heavy lifting was done prior to exiting the Golfe de Saint-Tropez, by which time Wallyño held a huge lead albeit with Lady First 3 just ahead. Wallyño caught them up on the way to the top mark despite suffering from being caught in the lee of the bigger boats they encountered coming back downwind. Pouligny was pleased with the sail selection and how the crew had handled the sail changes from the A1 to the Code Zero and back.  They had also done well in the last moments of the race where conditions had become tricky approaching the finish line off Saint-Tropez.

Maxi B was also won today by a Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez regular victor – Terry Hui’s Wally 80 Lyra and this was despite this event being the only one the Chinese-Canadian has raced with his team this season. “It was a good day for us,” commented tactician Nicolai Sehested, taking time off from skippering his Danish Rockwool team on the SailGP circuit. “We got off the line and got out the front. It was a whole team effort – good boat speed and good steering from Terry, which makes my life easier. We were the furthest right boat. We went all the way into the Bay, but we did a step up so we didn’t go in early on. Fortunately we have been here a few times. We were just sailing the boat fast and clean which made life easier out in front.

Tomorrow a coastal race is scheduled, starting at 1200 from the bay off Pampelonne Beach.

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